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International Employment Options

Although Harvard cannot directly employ individuals abroad, we can help you evaluate other options based on the University’s employment policy, which requires a business need for work abroad and compliance with the host country’s local laws.

Harvard programs typically use one of the five options outlined below to hire individuals abroad. For each option, consider the potential budget implications beyond the salary or payment provided to the employee or contractor. Not all options may be available to you and your project, and most options require substantial lead time (10 weeks).

We’ll work with you and your local Human Resources or Academic/Faculty Affairs office to consider the host country regulations, the needs of your program, and the employment costs to determine which option could be a good fit. Individuals should not start work until one of the options below is in place.

Partner Organization

Working with a local partner (e.g., peer university or non-governmental organization) in the host country to employ local staff—and in some cases US expats or third-country nationals (TCNs)—can be simpler than hiring staff directly through Harvard Global, another Harvard entity, or a PEO.

Harvard Schools and departments are responsible for sourcing and vetting the partner organization and negotiating the service agreement, typically using University approved templates, including review among the respective general counsels. These partners are often found through pre-existing research relationships. School procurement and sponsored research departments, Harvard’s Office of General Counsel, Office for Sponsored Programs, and our office can advise on the service agreement.

In this arrangement, the staff are employees of the local organization, and the administrative requirements associated with their employment are the responsibility of the local organization. Considering this option early on can make it easier to negotiate an arrangement and correctly set expectations for employees.

  • Salary
  • Fringe expense to cover employer-sponsored benefits and employer-owed taxes
  • Partner's monthly administrative fee to cover cost of adding employee to payroll (e.g. 10-20 percent of salary)
  • Work authorization sponsorship fees, if necessary


  • Less implementation time relative to other options
  • Potential for office space
  • Limited risk for Harvard
  • Partner responsible for tax and labor law compliance
  • Partner's administrative fee is typically less than other options


  • Work authorization sponsorship may not be available
  • No Harvard University affiliation
  • Little or no control over benefits
  • Potential for conflicts of interest
  • Not widely available
Harvard Global

Harvard Global Research and Support Services, Inc., also known as Harvard Global or "HG", is a Harvard-affiliated non-profit legal entity that that operates research centers and trusts abroad, receives research grants and donations on behalf of the University, and employs staff abroad on behalf of Harvard’s Schools, departments, and centers.

Harvard Global can likely employ individuals in countries where we have an established entity, and we can help you determine if this is an option. The individuals must be legally authorized to work in that country. See where Harvard Global operates for a list of ongoing operations and operations in development.

  • Salary
  • Fringe expense to cover employer-sponsored benefits and employer-owed taxes
  • HG monthly service fee: $800 per month, per employee
  • One-time start-up fee: $1,000

If a program will span several years and need office or lab space in addition to employment services, it may be suitable for Harvard Global to register a new entity and provide your program with office administration services.


  • Harvard University affiliation
  • Harvard University identification number (HUID) and HarvardKey account
  • Harvard University Library access
  • Harvard University network access
  • Dedicated team for international HR support
  • Global health benefits plan, which includes options for bundled health care (medical, dental, vision), supplemental life, and long-term disability insurance; or local health benefits plan, which includes medical accident, and life insurance
  • Harvard email address
  • Harvard Global business cards (upon request)
  • Integration with Harvard University financial and HR systems
  • Faster than some options


  • Limited availability (where Harvard Global has a legal presence)
  • Work authorization not available
  • Higher administrative fees than some options
  • If office space is required: incurs additional fees
  • If entity registration is required: incurs additional expense and longer lead time
Other Harvard Entity

In countries where there’s another existing Harvard-affiliated office, that office may be able to employ staff on your behalf. In some cases, they also may be able to provide office space. The suitability of this option depends on the specific job duties, the way in which the office is registered in country (for example, some offices have a scope that is legally limited to particular types of work), and the ability of the affiliated office to absorb the administrative burden of additional employees on their payroll.

We maintain relationships with Harvard's overseas entities and can help assess this option. If feasible, the affiliated overseas office and the Harvard department may enter into a service agreement and coordinate with HR.

  • Salary
  • Fringe expense to cover employer-sponsored benefits and employer-owed taxes
  • Entity's monthly administrative fee to cover cost of adding employee to payroll (e.g., up to 25 percent of total compensation)
  • Work authorization sponsorship fees, if necessary
  • Outside advisory or legal fees (only incurred with hiring unit's approval)


  • Harvard University affiliation
  • Potential for office space
  • Potential for access to Harvard systems (online libraries, shared drives, etc.)
  • Low administrative fee


  • Limited availability
  • Benefits vary by entity
  • Office space not guaranteed
  • Work authorization sponsorship limited
Professional Employer Organization

A professional employer organization (PEO) provides employment services, including human resource and payroll services, similar to a temporary staffing agency. We manage the University’s relationships with several global PEO firms and can guide you through this option if it’s right for your program.

Contracting with a PEO is an option when a small number of employees are needed in a specific location for a limited time. In this model, the individuals are legally employed by the PEO and provide services to the Harvard department. The PEO is responsible for employment law, tax, and reporting requirements. However, because Harvard may share liability if the PEO fails to comply with the law, such relationships must be closely monitored.

  • Salary
  • Fringe expense to cover employer-sponsored benefits and employer-owed taxes
  • PEO's monthly service fee (e.g., 18-25 percent of compensation, or a minimum of $800-$1,500 per employee)
  • PEO one-time onboarding fee (e.g. $500-$1,500 per employee)
  • Work authorization sponsorship fees, if necessary


  • Widely available
  • Limited risk for Harvard
  • PEO is responsible for tax and labor law compliance
  • Potential to source office space


  • High administrative costs
  • No Harvard University affiliation
  • Little or no control over benefits
  • Requires substantial lead time
Independent Contractor

Engaging someone as an independent contractor (IC) can be more straightforward than hiring them as an employee, but every country has different rules about the distinction between contractors and employees. Prior to contacting us, it’s important to work through your local HR processes regarding IC classifications.

In most countries, a worker is assumed to be an employee unless they qualify as an IC by meeting certain criteria. The criteria vary, but the following qualities tend to be universally important to an IC determination:

  • Duration of assignment
  • Percentage of time spent on the Harvard project
  • Control over how, when, and where the work is done
  • A business of doing similar work for clients other than Harvard
  • Use of own offices and/or facilities and equipment
  • Payment of own business expenses
  • Compensation based solely on services rendered (e.g., no vacation pay or employer-sponsored benefits like health insurance)

ICs must have work authorization in the country where they perform services. Additionally, some countries require ICs to register as businesses and/or collect a service tax or value-added tax (VAT) from their clients (e.g., Harvard). Personal tax and registration matters are the responsibility of the IC (not Harvard). A few countries apply obligations (e.g., tax withholding) even to those institutions engaging ICs.

  • IC service fees
  • Any other costs agreed to in the contract (e.g., travel expenses, material costs, etc.)
  • In rare cases, country-required expenses for tax withholding or reporting requirements


  • Fast implementation relative to other options
  • IC is responsible for tax compliance
  • IC is responsible for work/office space
  • IC is responsible for obtaining work authorization, if needed


  • No Harvard University affiliation
  • Increasing IC restrictions worldwide
  • Significant financial penalties for misclassification
  • Not a good long-term solution